Tournament Chess Sets - A Comprehensive Guide

Are you looking for a tournament chess set but not sure which one to choose with so many options available in the market? Do you really need a tournament chess set? What is so different about tournament chess sets compared to a metal, wooden or glass one that you have been using already? What makes a chess set a tournament chess set?

All these questions come naturally to anyone who is not familiar with tournament chess or chess sets in general. Even for those who are aware and have been playing serious chess games for some time, tournament chess is a different ball game and the finding the right set can get confusing.

Whether you are just entering the tournament chess arena yourself or looking to buy tournament chess sets for a club or school you represent, it is best to know equip yourself with the knowledge of how tournament chess developed over the years, its history, the types of tournament chess sets and how they have evolved and finally, the present rules and regulations for tournament chess sets.

The Best Tournament Chess Sets To Buy In 2020:

With so many types of tournament chess sets with varying style, size, weight, material, and color, it can certainly get overwhelming to make your choice. Our chess experts understand this predicament and have come up with two options to choose from that are sure to cater to people looking for a budget option as well as those looking for a pricier chess set.

We understand that no matter you are choosing a tournament chess set for a school or your local chess club, quality, ease of use, availability of replacement chess pieces, portability and price are all essential factors to consider. Furthermore, you also want the necessary accessories to go with your tournament chess pieces such as a tournament chess bag, chess board, chess clock and a scorebook.

After trying out more than a dozen manufacturers with different levels of quality, price point, and variety, we have finalized two all-inclusive tournament chess combos that are sure to impress you.

#1 Customized Deluxe Tournament Chess Combo by House of Staunton:

When it comes to the ultimate combination of quality, style, ease of use and a host of other flexible options to build your own dream tournament chess set combo, nothing comes close to this House of Staunton Deluxe Tournament combo. This chess combo not only fulfills but exceeds all US Chess Federation and FIDE requirements for Official Tournament use. From chessmen selection to the chess board, clock and scorebook, there are so many options at such great prices that you would be hard-pressed to find a better alternative anywhere.
Take a closer look at all the options and see for yourself:

Chess Pieces

Well built, easily recognizable chess pieces that are easy to handle and are aesthetically pleasant at the same time are a chess player's dream. The Deluxe tournament chess combo gives you the choice of selecting the basic single weighted black& ivory or a competition series black & ivory set of chess pieces. With a small add-on, you can choose to upgrade to solid black & ivory chessmen. If you're looking for weighted chess pieces, there is the option to upgrade in two different colors. Other pricier options such as weighted plastic, Fischer plastic, and collector series plastic are also great options to have. The combo comes with a complete set of 34 pieces including two additional queens for pawn promotion. Designed in a traditional Staunton style, the build quality of these plastic chess pieces will resist use and abuse for years to come.

Chess board

The deluxe tournament chess set combo comes with a full tournament-sized Chessboard with 2.25" squares and 20x20 inches footprint. Crafted in Europe, the Folding Wooden Tournament Chessboard is available in four different wood combination: African & Maple, Mahogany & Maple, Maple & Mahogany, and Walnut & Maple.

The Chessboard has a smooth satin finish that provides a seamless gameplay. The Rank and File labels are carefully demarcated which provide a great learning platform, especially for beginners.

Chess Clock

A chess clock is an essential tool for accurate time keeping during a serious game of chess especially in official club, regional or international tournaments.

The deluxe combo tournament chess set does not compromise on the chess clock and there are a number of options to choose from so you can choose the one that matches your needs and your budget. From low budget Diamond Quartz and mechanical plastic clocks to medium budget digital options and high budget touch and button digital options, there is something for everyone.


Another essential tool to have during tournaments is a sturdy, easy to carry chess player's scorebook. Again, there are various options to choose from based on your liking and needs from basic chess scorebook to hardcover and luxury hardcover ones.

Chess bag

Without the shadow of a doubt, the best tournament chess bag you can find at this price. The Deluxe Chess Tournament bag is designed to carry all your tournament equipment including chess pieces, clock, pencils, scorebook and even the folding wooden chessboard. Measuring at 26" x 14" and made from reinforced nylon, the bag is strong and roomy enough to hold even your non-chess items such as cell phone, drinks, and your favorite handkerchief. The inside of the bag has a secure bandoleer with 34 elastic loops that will safely hold your chess pieces in place, allowing you to travel without care.

More Details: Customized Deluxe Tournament Chess Combo at

#2: Customized Standard Tournament Chess Combo by House of Staunton:

If you are looking for the same great options a deluxe tournament chess combo offers but at a slightly lower base price, this customized standard tournament chess combo is the perfect fit.

With all the flexibility of the chess pieces, chess clock, chess player's scorebook and the same deluxe bag, you have the option to fully customize your tournament chess set how you want.

The only difference is the selection of chess boards which in this case is a regulation one made out of vinyl, mouse pad or silicone rather than wooden. The chessboard measures at a footprint of 20 x 20 inches and the squares are sized at 2.25 inch.

The high-grade vinyl or silicone used in the manufacture of this chessboard mean that it will stand the test of time and will resist dirt, tearing, spills and long-term use and abuse. The regulation chess board can roll up and unroll seamlessly, providing a totally flat and smooth platform for the movement of chessmen. You have the option to choose from a number of different color and material combinations for the squares. From Green & Buff regulation vinyl to green mouse pad and green & natural silicone, there is something to cater to every taste.

This makes it a perfect candidate for use in elementary school or even high school level chess tournaments. Furthermore, the chessboard has algebraic notation on all side so that even beginners can learn and play the game.

More Details: Customized Standard Tournament Chess Combo at

Tournament Chess Sets - A Brief History

The game of chess has been played for many centuries with different styles of play using different types of chess sets in different parts of the globe. However, for much of its early years, chess was played as a casual game with the earliest recorded game of played in 1475 in Valencia, Spain, between Francesco di Castellvi and Narciso Vinyoles. Through the fifteenth century to the beginning of the nineteenth century, chess sets continued to be developed and modified in different regions and there was no set standard for how they should look in size, shape, and style. Most of the chess pieces during this time were too tall, sometimes too similar to each other, prone to tipping over and very clumsy to handle during gameplay.

The lack of a standardized tournament chess set meant that an opponent unfamiliar with a particular style of chess set was at an immediate disadvantage from the get go. It was the early 19th century when a consensus began to develop that there was a need for a standardized chess set that was easy to use and universally recognized by chess players no matter where they were located.

The solution came in 1849 from John Jacques, a sports and games manufacturer from London, who developed a chess set and got it endorsed from the 'strongest player in the world' at that time - Howard Stanton. There are several different theories as to where and how John Jacques took the inspiration for the newly developed style of chess pieces. While we may never get to find out the actual truth, a combination of all the different theories suggests that the chess pieces were influenced greatly by the culture of ancient Rome and Greece and the chessmen were symbols of "respectable" Victorian society. The newly designed pieces also had to be such that they were cost effective enough to be produced on a mass scale.

All in all, this was a giant leap for the standardization of tournament chess sets and with the stamp of approval and endorsement from the most influential chess player of his time, Howard Staunton, who was also a writer for Illustrated London News, this new type of chess set soon became the standard for most tournament chess sets. The low cost, refined look, easier gameplay made the Staunton style chess sets massively popular in the years to come. So much so that in the year 1924, the World Chess Federation (FIDE) made the Staunton set their choice for all future international tournament. To this date, more than 150 years after its inception, Staunton chessmen remain the choice for serious chess players and are used in international tournaments, schools and chess clubs.

Types of Tournament Chess Sets

While the standard shaped chessmen of Staunton style have been the basis of all tournament sets over last century and a half, there have been slight derivative variants along the way. From the Morphy chess set of 1851 to Lasker Chess set of 1880 and from Marshall Chess set of the early 1900s to Lessing chess set of 1930s, there is a total of 17 recognized derivatives of the original 1849 Staunton chess set.

As the world population has increased and the number of chess players around the world has grown since 1849, the demand for tournament chess sets has increased. Whereas most sets were made out of wood originally using lathe machines followed by some manual craft, most modern Staunton tournament sets are made using plastic. Plastic sets are easier to mass produce in factories and thus, the most affordable option.

There is a lot of variety in tournament chess pieces and chess boards based on the type of use and the material used. There are also some subtle variations in the shape of chessmen based on different manufacturers without moving too far away from the basic Staunton style.

Tournament Chess Sets - What are the benefits?

There are many benefits to choosing standard tournament chess sets other chess sets. Let's take a look:


When playing in tournaments or even during the learning process for school kids, it is important that all players are on the same level of familiarity with the chess sets. Not having a standardized size or style of chess pieces would mean an unfair advantage for one side. For this reason, chess sets made out of glass, metal or ceramic and those inspired by movies or TV characters are not used in tournaments anywhere in the world. Instead, standardized Staunton style chess pieces approved by the World Chess Federation are used.

Easy gameplay

Plastic chessmen built in a standardized Staunton style make for easier game play. The felt bottoms of the chess pieces give the players a feeling of 'flow' when making moves during a game. The extra weighted chess pieces provide the extra bit of stability during tournament play. Most vendors give customers the option of algebraic notations on the chess board which can help beginners learn the game quickly by following each move clearly.

Easy to carry

Tournament chess sets are usually made from plastic and thus are lightweight compared to their wooden or metal counterparts. Mini-analysis type of tournament sets are so small that they can be easily carried while traveling and even the regulation club chess sets used in regional tournaments are compact enough to allow maximum portability.

Long lasting

Since plastic is the most commonly used material used in tournament chess set manufacturing, you can be sure that the chessmen will stay in good shape for many years to come and you will most likely lose or misplace them before they break or damage. This makes them ideal for use by school kids and busy chess clubs - both places that are prone to rough usage.


Perhaps the most important factor that makes tournament chess set an ideal option for most players is their affordability. A decent plastic tournament quality chess set can be bought from as low $7-$10 which means the barrier to entry is quite low.

How To Find The Ideal Tournament Chess Set

Finding a tournament chess set that suits your individual needs is easy when you know what function you want out of it. Here is a list of tournament style chess along with recommended functions to make things easier for you.

Mini-analysis chess set or travel chess set

As the name suggests, a mini analysis chess set is a very small, miniature chess set usually sized at 14x14inch. It is a perfect travel companion as the set can be folded into a small space such as a small bag or briefcase. The pieces are available in wood as well as plastic and there are several different additional options such as magnetic pieces that keep their place and allow you to continue playing even with slight bumps that are a common occurrence during travel.

Although very portable, lightweight and sturdy, mini analysis chess sets are not a good option for schools or clubs as the pieces are small and prone to be misplaced easily.

Club chess sets

These are regulation chess sets equally suitable for school, clubs or tournament play. Whether it is a serious game of chess or a casual one, club chess sets are a great option. These sets are sized at a standard tournament size with a 20" square chess board, 3 3/4" tall king and roughly 2 3/4 squares.

Available in smaller budgets starting from $10 to higher budgets of $200+ and a variety of materials, colors, and combinations, club chess sets are the most commonly used and practical tournament chess sets.

Weighted Tournament chess set

The weighted tournament chess sets add that extra bit of 'professional' touch that normal club chess sets lack. These are must have for a school or club that wants to take the next big step to tournament style play. The extra weight of chess pieces adds a level of stability and sturdiness that is an essential part of serious chess tournaments. While the size remains the same as regulation club chess sets, the weight of these sets is considerably more.

When looking for weighted tournament chess pieces, you will come across the terms 'double' or 'triple' weighted. This just means the amount of added weight there is inside the plastic chess pieces. The more weight there is, the more stable they will be and thus, more suited to blitz or tournament play.

Final Word

Tournament chess is serious business and a time for you to put into practice the enormous amount of time and energy you have dedicated to perfecting your chess moves. Therefore, you need a tournament chess set that truly reflects your ability. With all the necessary knowledge of tournament chess sets now under your belt and with our expert recommendations, we are confident that you'll be able to select your perfect tournament chess set.

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